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Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked counsel for Vice President Mike Pence to declassify the vice president’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
This week, Pence’s office refused, saying the release of details from the conversation served “no purpose” especially considering the fact that a witness who testified before Schiff’s committee said Pence never mentioned any information in the call relevant to the impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump.
Democrats committed to impeaching Trump after a whistleblower claimed the president had demanded a quid pro quo from Zelensky, including an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his dealings with Ukraine as well as cooperating with an investigation into the origins of the Russia-collusion narrative. The day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced impeachment proceedings, Trump declassified a transcript of his phone call with Zelensky. Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor” by cooperating with the U.S. investigation into the origins of the Russia-collusion narrative. Trump also brought up the Bidens, but did not explicitly ask for a favor regarding their connection to Ukraine. Both Trump and Zelensky deny that any pressure was placed during the call.
Now Schiff wants to dig through other classified phone calls to support his claims that Trump abused his power of the presidency to get a foreign government to look into his political rival.
Pence isn’t playing along.
“While the contents of a classified call with a foreign head of state should never have been discussed in an unclassified Committee hearing or an unclassified deposition, it is clear from public testimony that the Vice President never raised the Bidens, Burisma, or Crowdstrike in his conversation with President Zelensky,” Pence’s office said a letter obtained by The Hill and signed by the vice president’s counsel, Matthew Morgan.
“As you well know, a witness answered your direct question that the Vice President never raised those investigations,” the letter continued. “As such, the request to declassify and release another world leader transcript serves no purpose.”
The letter refers to Jennifer Williams, a foreign service officer and Pence staffer, who testified about Pence’s call last month.
Pence’s office on Wednesday slammed Schiff for requesting the Office of the Vice President “conduct a declassification review” three days after the House Intelligence Committee already voted to approve its report against Trump.
“This once again again [sic] illustrates the Committee’s lack of commitment to fundamental fairness and due process,” Morgan’s letter said, according to The Hill.
“The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has already voted out its partisan Report and transmitted it to the House Judiciary Committee,” the letter continued. “Your request, coming after the completion of your Report, serves no legitimate legislative or impeachment inquiry purpose.”
Schiff said in his initial letter to Pence that the vice president’s past willingness to releasing information regarding his contacts with Zelensky “means that you do not believe there is anything contained therein that would cause any harm to U.S. national security if publicly disclosed.”
The issue, then, comes down to whether Congress continues to set a precedent of releasing executive branch conversations with foreign leaders, something that could stifle international relations.